GPS: 51.938309, -9.153383


A small town, 8 miles NW of Macroom, at the foot of mountains on the Co. Kerry border, an area known as 'County Bounds'. The name of the village and its parish signifies "the Town of the Beloved".  It actually comprises the twin villages Ballyvourney itself and Ballymakeera which share a main street. The town caters well for tourists, having two hotels and  some pubs and cafes. The land around is very uneven, in some parts rising into mountains of considerable elevation, the highest of which is Mullaghanish.

St.Gobnait
GPS: 51.938153, -9.168432
The main attraction for many tourists is that is the homeplace of St. Gobnait, a virgin whose emblem is the fertility symbol of the bee and is credited with the cure of the sick. St.Gobnait has attracted pilgrims here for hundreds of years and still does. Pilgrims still travel from all over Ireland, and beyond, to Ballyvourney to do the 'rounds' and to venerate the Saint. Both on her name-day, Feb 11th, and on Whit Monday processions and masses are organised.
St. Abban, who died in 650ad, founded a convent here, which he gave to St. Gobnait, who, it is said, was descended from O'Connor the Great, Monarch of Ireland. Although all remains of this establishment are gone, the ruins of the 16th centuary conventual church are very extensive and interesting. They stand about 700 metres south the main village street. This medieval church incorporates a mutilated sheela-na-gig above the 15th century S. window  and a human mask, taken from a romanesque arch, known as 'the Black Thief' which is now on the W side of the chancel arch.   At the south side of the west wall of the church just at the top of the steps is a small niche. Embedded in the niche is St Gobnait's Bowl (as in bowling ball), which pilgrims can reach in and touch. This was the bowl St Gobnait allegedly used to destroy a fort that a local chief tried to build near her monastery.  It is reputed to be an agate.
'St Gobnait's House' or 'St Gobnait's Kitchen' is a circular hut (heavilly restored) with an internal diameter of 6 metres. Excavations prove that it was occupied in the Early Christian period by workers in bronze and iron.
Nearby is a shrine, erected to her in 1950, in which stands a statue of St. Gobnait, sculptured by Seamus Murphy, R.H.A. L.L.D.
In the graveyard across the road is "St Gobnait's Grave": a small mound with 3 bullaun stones and the  offerings of hopeful pilgrims.
Local tradition has it that the roof timbers of the church of St. Gobnait were removed from the church before the arrival of Cromwell and were hidden near a rock to the north of the village. The place name Carrig an Adhmaid is said to have originated in this event..

St.Abban's Well
The first site you encounter when coming up the hill from the village to the monastic site is St. Abban's well. A wrought iron archway marks the entrance with ‘HOLY WELL’ written across the top of it. A short path takes you to the well, which is nestled into the base of a tree. The tree is adorned with many offerings and prayers, in the common 'rag well tradition'.  
It is difficult to get to the water in the well (it would be almost impossible for a whole flock of pilgrims to get a taste in a reasonable time). However, there are two handy taps from which to get a taste of this sweet water.
The well is the final stop on a pattern held annually on the 11th of February, the festival of St. Gobnait and also on Whit-Monday. The stones at the entrance are, like the other stops on the pattern, heavily scored with crosses. 

The 'St.Gobnait' effigy
This is a wooden effigy, which is exhibited on the altar of Ballyvourney Church on her feast day, February 11th, and which is held in great veneration. This effigy is of oak, of the 13th century.  It is not in the round but carved from a flat piece of wood, not more than 75mm thick.  The face is badly marred, only one eye remaining recognizable, but that of such character and virility of expression that one could well understand its reputed power.  She is dressed in her robe of office, and the carving of the coif and folds of the skirt are nicely done.
The whole figure is about 700mm high. Her left hand is folded across her breast, the right hanging down, clasping a fold of her skirt. Distinct traces of blue and gold show on the bodice, as well as the, now very yellowed, white of her coif; and her skirt must originally have been a deep crimson with touches of gold. 
The back of the statue is deeply hollowed out, the wood left rough, apparently never painted, leading one to suppose that it was originally fastened up against a pillar or wall, where the back did not show. 

A ritual called 'St Gobnait’s measure' takes place each year in Ballyvourney Church on the Saint's Day, when the statue is taken to the altar.  This is a practice were pilgrims use the ribbons to ‘measure’ the statue. The ribbon(s) is held along the length of the statue and then wrapped around the neck, then the waist and finally the feet of the statue. Some pilgrims make the sign of the cross when this is done, others pick up the statue and kiss it, while others bless themselves with the statue. The ribbon or in most cases ribbons are then brought home and used to ward off and to cure sickness. Farmers even placed the ribbons in outhouses where there are livestock.

The 'St.Gobnait's Stone' Cross-Slab
GPS:  51.940425, -9.143512
About 1.5 kilometres north of the village church, standing alone in a field is an ancient 'cross slab',
a 1 metre tall standing stone, inscribed with a 'maltese cross' and a small figure which may represent a pilgrim.  There also appears to be a small Chi-Ro carving. A modern stone wall surrounds it for protection.

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